Mormonism LIVE: 035: Will The Real Apostle Please Stand Up !

In this week’s episode of Mormonism Live, we will investigate the integrity of the not only the President of the Church but also the integrity of the Quorum of the 12. Once one grasps the systemic issue within LDS Leadership, One’s trust in them becomes anything other guaranteed.

RESOURCES:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media/video/2016-01-1000-worldwide-devotional-january-2016?lang=eng 45:35 – 46:38 Time Stamp

https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2019/04/10/mormon-land-lds-churchs/ 4:47 – 5:46 Time Stamp

In his memoirs, An Abundant Life, Elder Hugh B. Brown explained “the Apostolic Charge” that every apostle is apparently given upon admittance to the Q12. It reads as follows: “Always be willing to subjugate his own thoughts and accept the majority opinion not only to vote for it but to act as though it were his own original opinion after it has been approved by the majority of the council of the twelve and the First Presidency.”

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262: An Examination of the LDS Church’s Position on Homosexuality With Bryce Cook

We sit down today and interview Bryce Cook on his new article “What Do We Know of God’s Will For His LGBT Children? An Examination of the LDS Church’s Position on Homosexuality”.  We talk at length about good fruit vs bad fruit, doctrine vs policy, where the Church has changed, and what we can hope in.  The is ground breaking and it once again asks us to step back and to ask ourselves and reflect on what President Uchtdorf has stated –

Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t seek revelation or answers…because we think we know the answers already.

Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?

Resources:

https://mormonlgbtquestions.com/

PDF of Bryce’s Article

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POST: Duty Bound to Reject It!

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Wheat & Tares welcomes guest poster Bill Reel once more for a discussion on the recent policy changes.

The recent policy change on Same Sex couples has opened so many new questions, ramifications and doctrinal contradictions that in spite of our being burned out and numb by all this, it needs be revisited.  I hope to be short and sweet so as to make this possible to skim in 5 minutes and able to be read in full in 20 minutes.  So with that here we go!

 This policy change diminishes agency.

  • As a faith, agency is one of our most important gospel principles. Removing the choice to bless a baby, to be baptized, to receive Priesthood (if a male) negates the agency of both the parents and the child.

“Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without agency, we would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior.” – Gospel Principles Manual

This policy diminishes the importance of the Holy Ghost

  • We have up till now taught that the gift of the holy ghost can be a great help in our decision making and assist us in staying on the right path.  With this policy we have in effect said that it’s not that big a deal if you don’t have it.  You can always get it later, nothing is lost.  This runs contrary to what we have taught since the days of Joseph Smith.

“Likewise, the Holy Ghost can help you. Through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, you can recognize and understand truth and make right choices and inspired decisions.  The Holy Ghost can inspire you with thoughts and ideas, warn you, and comfort you in times of sorrow. – Mormon.org

This violates the scripture in D&C 68:27 which calls for all 8 year old children within the stakes of Zion to be baptized and confirmed

D&C68:27 – “26 For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized.  27 And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.”

This policy diminishes the value of ordinances such as baptism.

  • This policy implies that for some the ordinances are not that big a deal.  The fact remains that if these kids are treated as second class during their formative years, the chance is slim to none that they will come back later.  These children will be more likely to grow up resenting the church and its rituals and will be much less likely to receive them later.

“Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing. With each of these ordinances, we enter into solemn covenants with the Lord.” – LDS.org

This policy seems to run contradictory to the teachings of Jesus.

  • We have in this policy pushed innocent children away and made it much less likely that the kids affected will return to the faith later in life.

“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” – Jesus

“Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” – Jesus

This policy leaves so many harming possibilities.

  • One example of many is that if one child in a family is grandfathered in under the rules from before the policy, his siblings will be impacted by the policy cannot enjoy the same rituals and blessings.
  • Leaders will have latitude in determining who is the primary caregiving parent:  how much a child lives with a gay parent, how many days a year, what legal designations in terms of decision-making, and so forth.  The lack of clear guidance means that it will be applied locally and inconsistently.

This policy seems to contradict Article of Faith #2

AoF #2:  “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.”

  • This is generally understood to mean that we are only held accountable for our own sins, not those of other people.  But this policy, by contrast, greatly diminishes a child’s opportunity to receive the gospel based on the choices of their parents.

It seems deceptive to claim the letter sent out a week later was a clarification of the original intent.

  • The original wording in the handbook seemed extremely clear that this policy affected any child or had a parent or both parents who were gay.  It did not distinguish between a child who was adopted by a gay couple or a child whose parents were divorced and now has one parent in a homosexual committed relationship.  It also left room for denial of rituals, ordinances, and blessings simply because one’s parent participated in a homosexual cohabiting relationship long before getting married in a heterosexual marriage and having the child.  When Elder Christofferson addressed the media less than 48 hours later, he only defended the motive behind the policy which he stated was to protect the children.  He did not address any misunderstanding about the policy.  The letter that followed a week after the policy’s release was an afterthought, a minor correction without admitting the original policy was wrong.  Calling it a “clarification” when it modifies the scope of the original policy dramatically is at least disingenuous.  It points blame at those who received the policy as if they misunderstood it, and it enables church leaders to change it without apologizing.

There was already a policy that would have covered in all likelihood most all of these situations.

  • There is already a policy on the books that if a underage person wishes to join the church they must have both parents’ permission to proceed.  This means the only children the present “modified” policy affects is children whose “primary” homosexual cohabiting parent(s) approve of the child growing up in full fellowship in the faith.  Their consent is no longer accepted.  This seems like such a small, small, small, segment to create such uprise over and to have members resigning at a rate unseen “since the days of Kirtland.”

This policy creates a litmus test where Elder Christofferson just a few months ago said there was none.

  • Why just a few months ago say that members were free to support Same Sex Marriage and now place language in the manual that states that such support is no longer acceptable for those with gay parents?  This is how it now stands for children of gay parents who want to join the church; they must disavow their gay parent(s)’ marriage:

“There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it,” Christofferson said, “if that’s your belief and you think it’s right.”  Any Latter-day Saint can have a belief “on either side of this issue,” he said. “That’s not uncommon.” – Elder Christofferson

This policy encourages promiscuous homosexual sex over committed legal loving homosexual relationships.

  • The message the policy gives directly is that the worst possible legal consenting relationship dynamic you can be in is a homosexual marriage or long-term cohabitation.  That this is the most highly punishable sin you can commit in these terms and is now labelled “apostasy,” triggering a required church disciplinary court.  What message does this give to homosexual church members?  Homosexual acts are, by contrast, labelled a “greivous sin.”  Common sense says that even if homosexuality is against God’s law that we as a church would prefer to encourage legal loving committed relationships rather than an unsafe, promiscuous lifestyle, and yet this policy does the opposite by placing harsher penalties on commitment than on promiscuity.

This motive of protecting children from confusion is implausible.

  • The only kids this affects are active kids.  Inactive families won’t pursue ordinances for their children.  So only active church-going gay families with kids will be impacted.  Given that, how does this policy reduce confusion?  It doesn’t.  It adds to confusion, making the situation even more complicated.  The kids would have already been exposed to the idea that homosexual behavior is condemned by the church, which would have been the case even without the policy, but now they also have the confusion surrounding their own ability to progress through the gospel mile markers. Rather than protecting children from confusion, this increases the confusion by making it more personal.

This “modification” has not yet been added to the online handbook.

  • As a former bishop I am aware that bishops are instructed to save these letters, but I’m also aware that few bishops actually save them or have them organized in a useful manner.  When I began my tenure as bishop there were 1st presidency letters in our confidential cabinet, but they were from a bishop who served 12 years before I was called.  Without this “modification” letter visible online where it is readily available, a new leader who is called in future will simply follow the handbook’s guidance not aware that such a revision exists.

The policy contradicts Book of Mormon’theology that teaches if ye have a desire to be baptized and are worthy, you are encouraged to do so.

Mosiah 18: “Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into acovenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

There are likely more issues with the policy that I am missing in this list, but these suffice to show that in the end we should feel free to dissent against such policies.  As Joseph F Smith once taught us:

“STANDARD WORKS JUDGE TEACHINGS OF ALL MEN. It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine.  You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.  Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.  –  Joseph Fielding Smith

Yep, you heard him.  Duty Bound!

Questions to consider

  • Did you agree that the handbook wording and “clarification” were essentially saying the same thing?
  • Do you see its present interpretation affecting many people?
  • Have you moved on or is this still bothering you?
  • Do you feel comfortable dissenting against the Church?  If so, how?  If not, why not?

Bill Reel is the host of Mormon Discussion Podcast. The podcast tries to deal with the tough issues forthrightly while “leading with faith”.

To hear more from Bill Reel on this issue see his podcast episode – “Handbooks, Policies, and Sleight of Hand”

POST: Reasons Why The Church Won’t / Will Change on Homosexuality

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I will try to be brief and allow this article to be a quick read.  I will lay out first the reasons the Church Won’t change on its Theology and Doctrine and will followup with Why it Will and allow you the reader to make up your own mind.  At the end, if you care what my feelings are, I will share my perspective.

WHY THE CHURCH WON’T CHANGE

1.) Our entire theology hinges on heterosexual sealed people making it to the Celestial Kingdom.  It does not take much thinking to see that many of the points and parts would need to be unraveled to accommodate LGBT individuals within our belief system.

2.) In some ways we have painted ourselves even more into a corner than we did on Blacks and Priesthood and their lack of participation in the temple.  If we were to change not only does our theology change, but also many of our leaders will go down in history being bigoted folks who perpetuated false theories.  There would one day be another Gospel Topics Essay that disavows all these men’s statements and in some ways these teachings are more pervasive than the ones we spewed on people of color of African descent.

3.) As a consequence of #1 & #2 the top leaders will have to adjust to members relinquishing a large amount of trust they have in them.  While our history shows that prophets have taught and perpetuated false doctrine and that all 15 men united generation after generation were wrong about what is truth and what is false doctrine, the average member hasn’t yet caught on.  To reverse on the LGBT issue would be so deep and expansive in terms of our coming face to face with the limitations of leadership, that a large scale adjustment of what it means to be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and to be trusted to discern the mind and will of God would occur in a monumental wave.  To some extent this happened with the 78′ revelation but without the internet it was so much more limited and so few really understood the complexity of how proliferated our teachings were on when and even if such a change could happen.  With the internet and Facebook….. a change on Homosexuality and how we include LGBT members would completely rock the “Good Ship Zion” and large scale adjustments would be the consequence.

4.) God appears in the room and tells them not to make a change.

 

WHY OUR CHURCH WILL CHANGE

1.) The ‘Missionary Surge’ was ineffective in terms of converts and what that may say about our future in terms of convert growth.  I have to believe the Church is surprised that so few additional converts came out of the Missionary Surge.  The increased amount of convert baptisms statistically is negligible.  In spite of Elder Holland’s Predictions on what he or the Church expected missionary force to grow to, a simple look at statistics shows that this increased force could only be short lived before a return to only slightly higher numbers than before the age change.  That diminishing has already begun and will continue over the next 18 months.  One has to wonder knowing society is in general less interested in institutional Churches along with organized religion and hence less interested in Mormonism, if once the numbers go back down we will see convert baptisms take a really hard hit.    Without converts the Church must look to growth within its ranks.

2.) Loss of Males – Recent research was published that shows we went from a Church of 52% of members in Utah in 1990 being female to 59% of members in Utah being female in 2008.  Think about that.  It may very well be 60%/40% at this point.  What does that mean.  It means that at a minimum 1/3 of all LDS women in Utah must choose to either remain single, marry a nonmember, or move out of the state in hopes there is a better chance elsewhere.  Ok… so what?  It is the next logical step to come to the realization that when members of the Church remain single or marry nonmembers their general commitment and activity within the Church drops off.  Our theology doesn’t really include single members (Find single members in the Family Proclamation for example).  And when members marry non-members the activity rate is much lower and those individuals often are exposed to various ways of seeing the world and began to adopt a less black and white view of how everything works.  Also the loss of males diminishes the work force within Mormonism.  Males are needed to hold the Priesthood and administer God’s kingdom.  Without sisters having Priesthood offices, the work force in Utah is slowly diminishing.  We could go back to polygamy to solve this but I am highly skeptical the Church would ever want to touch that with a ten foot pole.

3.) Public Perception.  Consider 10 years from now…. 25 years from now…..  50 years from now.  What will the general perception of the public be of a faith that discriminates those of the LGBT community?  Don’t think it will be that great?  Ask yourself “Had we never changed our Doctrine and Theology to include Black members in the Priesthood and Saving ordinances of the Temple, what would be the public perception of our church?”  How many potential converts who would have been interested otherwise and now would simply turn their back to our faith seeing us as racist bigots?  I can just about assure you that had we not changed, the number of convert baptisms in the here and now would be minimal and have little effect at adding to the life blood of the Church.  This issue with time, can be assumed to have the same effect.

4.) Science – It is becoming more and more overwhelming that being gay is biological.   That one neither chooses to be gay nor does any life experience after birth make them gay.  They are born Gay and it can not be changed.  We also are coming to grips with the the concept that being gay is not just attraction but rather this identity proliferates through their entire being.  There is no way to untangle this from who they are at their core.

5.) No way to absolve ourselves from this issue.  If the Church wanted to absolve itself from dealing with a certain group internally it could simply bar that subset of our culture.  It appears in some ways they tried to do this with the recent policy change on children of gay couples.  This works if the trait you are trying to keep out is one gained after birth.  For instance we could ban Muslims from baptism and hence there would be no members who have Muslim characteristics or background.  The issue here though is being gay is biological.  Even if the Church could rid itself of all gays with the snap of the fingers, the very next generation of LDS youth will find find that 6 to 8% of them are LGBT.  It is a continual issue that will forever be in our face until we adjust.  And if we don’t we must plan on the results of our treatment of them to be in our face as well.  Also when one has a gay child or a gay sibling or a gay friend, many of those folks are having their mind changed about the issue in drastic ways and hence adding to those who become disaffected or leave all together.

6.) We are becoming a Global Church.  While I predict our growth rate will turn into a loss rate if this issue continues without a dramatic shift, at present we are becoming or have become a global church.  Whether we continue to grow or began to incur a rate of loss, this much is true.  Members more and more every day are interacting with the world at large.  Due to employment in a world economy, the internet and social media, and interaction with the growing segment of those who are disaffected or who have left, orthodox members are coming face to face with with the reality that their history is messy, that leaders have made serious mistakes, that people are marginalized and even hurt by the Church, and that those who dissent are making good points within the arguments.  The more members see a freedom of thought and that critics both in and out of the Church are making valid arguments something naturally occurs. The rate of Orthodox members becoming open to varied ideas of thought and even more importantly, began to think for themselves trusting their inner authority rather than placing complete trust in authorities outside themselves, will continue to increase.  People who dissent faithfully will grow and those who all together leave will grow.

7.) As a followup to #6 – Who converting who?  –  Ask yourself, are members who support the Church’s stance on Gays thinking it is from God more often converting to LGBT allies or are LGBT allies in the Church being more often converted to Supporters of the Church position?  I think this is a tilting landslide in one direction.  If convert baptisms decrease radically and membership is changing their mind in almost entirely one direction one only need sit with that to recognize the consequences.

8.) Sisters leading out – As we discussed in #2 there is a trending of losing more males than females to inactivity or completely leaving the Church.  It begs the question, why are males leaving the Church in greater numbers?  In a patriarchal society males are more often taught to think for themselves and to rely on themselves.  They are likely more confident in their conclusions because the society teaches them they preside and make the final call.  The trouble is we have begun as a culture to give our sisters more independence and more leadership.  One must ask if having Sister Missionaries in Leadership and training roles, and having Women General Authorities more at the forefront, along with having Women more involved in councils at every level of the Church; if this will also lead to our sisters placing more trust in their own understanding rather than trusting Church authorities.  It feels like this will be one of the consequences of the shift we are making.

9.) financial.  My guess is tithing is down and costs are up.  I still think they Church is in great shape financially as they have begun shifting their reliance on tithing to reliance on commercial ventures in even greater ways than in the past.  the Loss of Tithing likely isn’t hurting them.  But if the Church holds this position it will begin taking deep losses in membership, we are already seeing some of this.  This leaves them short on manpower to manage the assets they have.  This leaves temples and ward buildings with less people using them and less people to man them.  This is an issue and will be a frustration and a struggle going forward.

10.) Humanitarian Efforts – As the Church encourages its members to reach out more and more as it is doing with the recent refugee issues something is likely to occur.  When members are reaching out to the marginalized in one section of society they are more likely to develop empathy for others in society who are marginalized.  Once we begin to put ourselves in the shoes of another who is different than us we may began to put ourselves in others shoes who are different who knees are feeble and whose hands hang down.

11.) God shows up in the room and tells them to make a change.

 

WHICH WAY DO YOU THINK THIS TURNS OUT? AND IF YOU SUSPECT A CHANGE, HOW SOON DO YOU EXPECT IT?

 

CONCLUSION:

Personally I waffle back and forth.  At times I think The leadership has chosen this as the hill to die on.  And frankly if they do I expect a large scale loss of membership over the next 30-40 years to the point that we go from 15 million members (5 million active) to 5 million members (around 1 million active).  They can do that and that can work if that is what they desire.  At other times I am left to think it is inevitable that they change and they will see this and do so.

Frankly I am certain of the fact that there are members of the top 15 who currently would and do support a deep shift in how we handle this issue.  Their private conversations tell as much.  I even suspect the Leadership as a whole wants to move in that direction but needs the membership to see the change as having come from them and not from pressure from dissenters within and without.  Before the internet this would be possible.  They could work towards a stretch of silence before unveiling new revelation…. but with the internet here and social media what it is, I am doubtful they can ever attain that kind of peace before the change.  I also believe if they want to shift they want to do so slowly over several decades…. but I also think the internet and dissent within and without is mounting much faster than they expected.  They are coming to grips I suspect that this is not going away and the longer they wait the more difficult it will be to keep the orthodox membership from losing trust when they do make the change.  Personally most days I think they have to change, they don’t have a choice and I also think think they are beginning to see that the sooner they do it, the better it will be in the long run.

Thanks to a Good friend (you know who you are) in helping me work through these ideas in my head!

 

 

190: Further Light And Knowledge

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Many see no hope.  Many feel we have theologically painted ourselves into a corner.  Many see no way to press on.  Today I show we are not that lost to the hope of redemption.  We are not beyond the reach of the reach of the Grace of God.  Today I show how it can still happen.  This episode explores the possible ways in which we can make room in our Doctrine and our Theology for LGBT individuals.  Today I show how we can hang on…….. What perhaps lays ahead…….  perhaps…. just perhaps…. further light and knowledge!!!

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179: Handbooks, Policies, and Sleight of Hand

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Today Chris Bloxham returns to talk to me and one of my listeners Clay as we take this policy change apart every step of the way.  This may be one of the best episodes yet on Mormon Discussion as we try to make sense of this public relations nightmare.

This is part 2 of a 2 part series. In part 1 we discuss at length my increasing cynicism and frustration with the Church and then the Gut punch of this policy fiasco.

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178: Emotional Gut Punch

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Today Chris Bloxham sits down to discuss the emotional roller coaster ride that the last 7 days have been.  How leading with faith is getting near impossible and Cynicism abounds.  I don’t have all the answers today and and I no longer know where all this leads but I have always tried to be authentic and so welcome to my world.  This is part 1 of a 2 part series.  In Part 2 we invite a listener to join us and take a analytical look at the problems with this handbook fiasco.

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